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Forced Medication After United States v. Sell: Fighting a Client's 'War on Drugs'
By Donna Lee Elm, Douglas Passon
I. The Sell Case
The landscape of forced medication cases changed significantly as the
result of the struggle of Dr. Charles Thomas Sell. Dr. Sell had a
thriving dental practice in suburban St. Louis when, in 1997, he was
indicted on over 60 counts of fraud and money laundering related to his
practice.1 After the first indictment, a witness in the case
made allegations that Dr. Sell had threatened her life; another
informant claimed Dr. Sell was making plans to kill an FBI agent
involved in the investigation. Thus, in April 1998, the government
obtained another indictment against Dr. Sell that added those serious
Dr. Sell had a history of mental illness dating back to 1982. Questions
regarding competency were inevitably raised. In early 1999, the
magistrate judge entered an order sending Dr. Sell to the U.S. Medical
Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri (“Springfield”).
The doctors at Springfield believed he was suffering from delusi
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